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Charmin (US)

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Charmin is the #1 US toilet tissue, and one of Procter & Gamble's top-selling brands, with domestic sales of around $2.3bn. It is available in a number of different variants including wet wipes, and even a low-priced "basic" version. The brand was gradually launched around the world from the late 1990s, rolling out in the UK and Germany as well as several other European, Asian and Latin markets. Performance was disappointing and in 2007, P&G quit the European paper business altogether, selling local rights to Charmin (and sister brand Bounty) to rival company SCA. Both brands were later phased out by SCA, and Charmin is again only available in North America.

Advertising

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Competitors

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Brands & Activities

In 2013, Euromonitor & Sanford Bernstein estimated sales of $2.25bn for Charmin and its sub-brands. It had 28.6% share of the US market in 2013 (IRI), making it the best-selling brand, although P&G ranked in second place overall behind multi-branded Kimberly-Clark. The brand was relaunched in 2007 with new packaging and a new product range. The core Charmin regular product was renamed Charmin Ultra Strong, while more expensive Charmin Ultra became Charmin Ultra Soft. Charmin Sensitive is a premium line with added aloe vera. There is also Charmin Basic, a value-priced single-play sheet, launched in 2005 and priced up to 20% below the other two core products. The full range now comprises more than 50 different SKUs. Each of the three main Charmin products is available in various different sizes including the Charmin Megaroll, which combines all the paper from a standard four-pack onto a single giant roll in order to save users the hassle of changing the roll so often.

In 2001, P&G acquired Moist Mates, a moist bath tissue on a roll, and has since relaunched the product nationally in the US as Charmin Fresh Mates for adults, and Charmin Kid Fresh specifically targeting children. The roll concept was discontinued in 2003 in favour of flushable cloth wipes.

In 2002 the company licensed Cotton Buds Inc to produce Charmin To Go travellers' portable bathroom tissue packs and toilet seat covers. The brand also lends its name to two touring "Potty Palooza" trucks, which provide multiple luxury bathrooms for outdoor events in the US. Since 2006, P&G has also provided staffed temporary luxury restrooms in New York's Times Square for the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

For several years, Charmin was also sold in several international markets. It was introduced to the UK in 2000, followed by Germany in 2002, and was extended to Switzerland and Austria by 2003. However the brand's performance in Europe remained disappointing, placed well behind market leaders Kimberly-Clark and SCA. In 2007, P&G pulled out of the European tissues market altogether, selling the license to produce Charmin and its other paper tissue and towel products in the region to SCA for $671m. SCA changed the name of Charmin to Cushelle in 2010. It is the 3rd ranked brand in the UK after Andrex and SCA stablemate Velvet, with around 7% value share.

Background

The product now known as Charmin was first developed in the 1920s by John Hoberg & Co., a paper manufacturer established in Green Bay, Wisconsin since the 1890s. The company manufactured various paper products, including facial tissue and disposable dinner napkins. In 1928, Hoberg developed a new toilet tissue which was apparently described by one employee as "charming". Inspired by this, the company adopted the name Charmin for the product (although it was pronounced "Sharmin"). The first four-roll package was introduced in 1932, and Charmin proved so successful that the business changed its name to the Charmin Paper Co in 1950, rebadging all of its facial tissues, paper towels and disposable napkins under the same brand.

The first use of the Charmin Baby marketing mascot was in 1953, with the slogan, "Babies your Skin". Procter & Gamble acquired Charmin in 1957, its first step into the paper products industry. The brand was only available regionally at the time, and as a single-ply tissue trailed well behind rivals Scott and Kimberly Clark in quality. Nevertheless, P&G felt it had promise and having learned more about how the paper products business worked, began national distribution in the early 1960s, also launching a new two-ply tissue brand, White Cloud, as well as facial tissue Puffs and Bounty paper towel. Yet while Puffs and Bounty performed well, progress with Charmin was very slow as P&G struggled to break the grip established by rivals Scott and Kimberly Clark. Eventually a turning point was reached in 1964 with the relaunch of the brand using a higher-quality, softer paper.

Also in 1964, the company introduced fussy grocery storeowner Mr Whipple in its advertising for Charmin. (The agency was Benton & Bowles, a forerunner of what was later D'Arcy). For the next 20 years, to highlight the paper's softness, Mr Whipple advised his customers, "Please, don't squeeze the Charmin". In 1978, consumer research revealed Mr Whipple, played by actor Dick Wilson, to be America's 3rd best-known personality after then-President Richard Nixon and preacher Billy Graham. P&G also spent millions of dollars developing new air-drying technology for the paper, which improved its "wet strength" while also making it fluffier. The new version of Charmin was relaunched in 1980, along with low cost tissues Banner and Summit, and higher-priced Certain, impregnated with lotion. But all of these rival products were eventually dropped in the late 1980s and 1990s in order to focus on the lead brand. Charmin was launched internationally for the first time in the late 1990s.

The biggest testing ground proved the UK, where Charmin launched in 2000. P&G initially doubled the wet strength of the product for the UK market after research indicated that British consumers fold their toilet paper, unlike US users, who are more likely to scrunch it into a ball. Rival paper marketer Kimberly Clark, makers of Andrex, turned this against the brand, launching a high profile campaign which claimed that Charmin was "unflushable" and would block drains. P&G was forced to recall and reformulate the product. It remains the #3 toilet paper brand in the UK after Andrex and SCA's Velvet.

Also in 2000, P&G introduced a new brand mascot in the form of the animated bear family, a mildly rude spin on the old phrase about bears and what they do in the woods. Since their introduction the bears have gradually evolved, developing an ability to speak mid-decade, and later changing their colours to red or blue to denote the pack colours for Charmin Ultra Soft or Ultra Strong. In 2012, they also developed three-dimensions in an enhanced CG visual style. In the US, Charmin is still manufactured in the town where it was first developed. Green Bay is now firmly established as the toilet paper capital of the world - rival brand Quilted Northern is also made there.

Last full revision 11th January 2017

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